Sri Lanka to introduce free visas for SAARC member countries

Photo courtesy – Oleksandr Pidvalnyi / Pexel

Sapan News Sri Lanka is planning to introduce free visas for Southasian countries in a bid to increase tourism and stimulate economic activity.

While details and other matters are yet to be finalised, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Tourism, Harin Fernando told the Daily FT that the government is planning to extend “the free visa for SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) member countries very soon.”

“By reducing the barriers to entry, we aim to position Sri Lanka as more welcoming and accessible,” said the minister, adding that tourists are more likely to recommend a destination if their visa experience is hassle-free.

Fernando explained that travellers from the region can apply for a prior visa free of cost via Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) — the official online authorisation to visit the country. While the ETA is initially limited to 30 days from the date of arrival, it may be extended for up to six months.

Tourism accounts for close to 5% of Sri Lanka’s economy. Through this scheme, the government aims to not only boost the sector and economy but also hopes to diversify visitor demographics and attract a wider range of travellers.

The Southasia Peace Action Network (Sapan) also promotes the institution of soft borders in its Founding Charter and campaigns for a “visa-free Southasia, visa-on-arrival, or at least ease of visas – to allow freedom of trade and travel to each other’s countries.”

Sign the #MilneDo petition for ease of visas here.

– Sapan News

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